How to make your home a cyber fortress

As the saying goes, our homes are our castles. Imagine, however, that you’ve just arrived at your home to find the door broken open, the furniture tossed and everything of value missing. Suddenly, the castle walls have been breached, the moat has been drained and your sense of security – the very thing that makes your home your castle – is flying off overhead in the clutches of a fire-breathing dragon.

That deep, dark dungeon forming in the pit of your stomach is exactly the way it feels, medievally speaking, when you discover that your computer’s security has been compromised. Strangers have stolen the online you, and you’re pretty sure that means you’re being bought, sold and robbed as blind as the beggar at the castle gate.

Think it can’t happen? Better think again, according to Nicole Henley, Information Security Officer at Emprise Bank. “The fact is, 73 percent of Americans have been victimized by some form of cyber crime. Even more surprisingly, it typically takes 156 days for the crime to be discovered. That’s like letting someone run around wreaking financial havoc with your wallet for more than five months.”

Where you’re at risk. What you can do.

There are several tried-and-true ways that cyber thieves have found effective to breach your home’s data security. For each weak link, there are some best practices you can put into place to shore up the walls of your castle.

Ringing the cyber doorbell. The direct approach is often the most effective. If someone wants your information, they may simply approach you directly and ask for it under the guise of a phishing email from someone you think you know. Click on the link or open the attachment, and you’ve just opened the front door and welcomed a thief into your home. Another popular tactic is to pretend to be tech support, offering to help you clear a virus from your system.

Coming through the Wi-Fi window. The router that sends a wi-fi signal to the devices in your home is another point of entry into your home computer. To close that window of opportunity, make sure your wi-fi network requires a password to join it, then change that password regularly. It’s also a good idea to set your network up to use the latest encryption system.

Change the locks on your cyber home. The passwords to your online accounts are the locks that keep thieves at bay. The more passwords you have, the safer you’ll be. Changing them frequently is also a good idea. There are secure applications available now that will generate hard-to-hack passwords for you and retain them in encrypted vaults on your computer. Make your passwords long, even creating phrases or short sentences, like “What’s for Dinner?” You can even set up your accounts to require a code you send from your cell phone for added protection.

Devise security into your devices. There are 5.2 internet-connected devices in American homes these days, any one of which can be accessed by their 2.5 kids. Do the math, and you’ve got a significant security risk. So having a separate computer you set up for the kids’ restricted use is just smart. If there’s just one family computer, set up separate user accounts for everyone with parental controls configured for the kids’ accounts. Protect all your devices by setting them to automatically update their operating systems, so you get the latest anti-theft protections. Of course, you need strong PINs or passwords, and when it comes time to replace them, make sure you do a secure reset to clear all your data from the old devices.

The 411 on what to about a cyber 911.

Unfortunately, the longer your life is online, the greater the odds that you will be hacked. So be sure you back up all your files and personal information on a separate storage device. If you don’t you may lose them permanently to the hackers. Contact your credit card company immediately if you see charges you don’t recognize, and change the passwords for any online account that has been breached. Contact the company directly if you are unable to change your password.

For all the convenience computers have brought to our homes, it’s important to realize that they can also usher in some very unwelcome guests. Emprise Bank is ready and able to be your partner in enhancing the security of your banking information. If you ever suspect that anyone has compromised your accounts at Emprise, we encourage you to contact us right away.